World Values Day (20th October 2016) epitomises how people everywhere, including teachers, are passionate about doing something to make the world a better place. The conscious use of inspiring values is the transformative agent. As Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Educationalists, who want to help children and young people live their lives to the fullest, are prioritising their pupils’ social, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing because they understand that learners’ welfare underpins their personal development and academic and other achievements.
Take stock for a moment and consider three revolutions that are taking place, and how today’s young children and adolescents are beginning to respond to the ‘17 Sustainable Development Goals’ agreed by world leaders of 193 countries in September 2015. The ambitious Action Plan to find lasting solutions for the 17 Global Goals started on 1 January 2016 and will continue to 2030 – during the critically formative years of today’s schoolchildren. What kind of world do they want in 2030 as young adults?
Human beings are complex, so teaching has to be among the most challenging jobs in our ever-changing world. In the busy swirl of the demanding day, how can teachers go with the flow, keeping all the balls in the air so that they and their pupils enjoy learning, growing and developing in ways that lead to happy, meaningful, successful lives?
Three years ago I was listening to the BBC Radio 4 Education Debates. The discussion focused on what we should teach our children in school. It included a clip from an enthusiastic boy who talked about the values he had been learning: respect, honesty and determination. A member of the expert panel was dismissive, claiming a school curriculum should be about skills and knowledge, not “wishy-washy” values. Yet this was 2012: the year that banks were in the news regularly for dishonest dealings. A few days later the London 2012 Olympic Games opened, followed by the Paralympic Games, and the nation was inspired by witnessing the Olympic Values of excellence, respect and friendship and the Paralympic Values of determination, inspiration, courage and equality. What did those contrasting stories tell us about the need for values in education and life?
I really enjoy election season - the excitement, the stories, the debates and the whole theatre of politics. Then there are the election specials and the blow-by-blow analysis of which seats are going to which parties as the votes come in. The discussions with friends and colleagues as we dissect the results and speculate the impact it will have on us. Then the quality of comedy increases as we have a surge of post-election satire. The thing I enjoy the most is my vote; whether the party I vote for is successful or not it’s a chance to choose a party that best fits my ideals and values.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” Schoolchildren’s successes can be brought about with informative, systematic values education that progressively develops and nurtures the whole person. Key to achievement is a mindset intent on mastery through proactively capitalising on learning opportunities that crop up in all contexts.
With the new curriculum upon us, Rosemary Dewan of the Human Values Foundation explains how pupils can make terrific strides with an education that embraces hard skills, soft skills and intrapersonal skills...
Following extensive research (Lovat, Toomey and Clement, 2010, see below), education experts consider that “the best laid plans about the technical aspects of pedagogy are bound to fail unless the growth of the whole person – social, emotional, moral, spiritual and intellectual, is the pedagogical target”.
Given that pupils have to learn a huge amount, it can be easy to forget about their emotional wellbeing. The Human Values Foundation’s Rosemary Dewan discusses the importance of this matter.
What subject is dynamic, cross-curricular, student-centric and stimulates children and young people? This is a subject constantly arousing their curiosity, thereby enabling teachers to capitalise on pupils’ eagerness to learn, and affording plenty of practical opportunities for schools to work collaboratively with parents, carers and professionals who are involved in guiding and mentoring children. The answer is values education.
No matter what stage we have reached in our lives, no matter what age we are, it is never too late to have dreams and realise them. When children and young people are given the opportunity to systematically explore values, as an integral part of their education, they get fired up because the process makes so many aspects of learning meaningful and relevant, expanding individuals’ horizons while also developing and strengthening their inner qualities. The effects can be surprising!
Our mindset is key to unlocking our potential. The study of values is an engaging, holistic process that not only builds and strengthens participants’ mental capabilities but their physical and spiritual attributes as well. It appeals because the exploratory process and the activities to reinforce learning are expansive and experiential. Children and young people enjoy feeling empowered as they gradually develop essential emotional and social skills that enable them to better manage and control situations. This is particularly rewarding when, rather than being swamped by negative influences, such as fear and perceived limitations, they can draw upon diligently mastered tools that help them realise their hopes and aspirations.
The theory of Marginal Learning Gains is inspired by the philosophy that underpinned the extraordinary success of Team GB Cycling at the Beijing and London Olympics and of the Team Sky Pro Cycling Team at the 2012 Tour de France. The philosophy is simple: focus on doing a number of few small things really well. Once you do this, aggregating the gains you make will become part of a bigger impact on learning. For students, for teachers and schools.